March 10, 2010

Microsoft’s Thacker Wins Prestigious Technology Award

A Microsoft Corp. researcher won one of technology's most coveted prizes on Tuesday after he designed and built what is widely considered the first modern personal computer.

The $250,000 Turing Award went to Charles Thacker, who led the hardware development at Xerox Corp.'s famous Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, in the 1970s.  He took part in developing innovative display and other technologies there that helped inspire future generations of computers.

Thacker also co-invented the Ethernet networking technology for connecting computers, which is still widely used throughout many networks.

He said that most of the money would probably be donated to his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley.

"I was flabbergasted," he said in an interview with the ASsociated Press. "I frankly never expected to get the award, because it wasn't given to people like me. Most of the people who have gotten the Turing award in the past few years are software people or theoreticians. There are scant few people who have actually built some hardware."

Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, which are considered pioneers of the Internet, along with Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse, are some other recent winners of the prestigious award.

Google Inc. and Intel Corp. funded the Turing Award.  It is named after the mathematician Alan Turing and is administered by the Association for Computing Machinery.

Wendy Hall, the association's president, said that Thacker is "one of the most distinguished computer systems engineers in the history of the field" and that his innovations have "profoundly affected the course of modern computing."